If Silent Movie does not grab you immediately, and that probably is not a stretch since not a sound is made until the minute and a half mark, give it time. By the time Burt Reynolds allows Mel Brooks, Dom DeLuise, and Marty Feldman to grope him in the shower, all for comedy, Silent Movie takes off.
This is a hard movie to hate, mostly because it feels authentic, at least beyond the slapstick and gags. The plot concerns a down and out Hollywood producer named Mel Funn (Brooks) who has the ridiculous idea to make a silent movie in 1976 to save a studio drowning in debt. Of course, that is what happened, and there is little doubt it took quite a struggle to pull names like James Caan, Liza Minnelli, Anne Bancroft, Burt Reynolds, and Paul Newman into the fray.
Everything in Silent Movie is slapstick. Even the gags that serves no purpose to the story, such as the bathroom/dog switch, are hysterical. The physicality of all involved is nothing short of brilliant, perfectly capturing the style and tone of the movies it is paying homage to, not spoofing.
To avoid any sense of false advertising, Silent Movie is not completely silent. One word is spoken, landing it in the Guinness Book of World Records for the least amount of dialogue in a film. Spoiling that moment means ruining one of the more well constructed gags in the movie.
Silent Movie is an obvious challenge, with incredibly constructed scenes of physical humor. When a large corporate head named Engulf (Harold Gould) with his helpful associate named Devour (Ron Carey) needs to put on a suit, they twist and turn, screwing up the simple act five times in a single take. This also leads to a later sight gag in a restaurant that makes it all worthwhile.
Mel Brooks’ usual sense of sexual humor is in full force, including a running gag about two women who think Funn and crew are gay, and the entire staff of Engulf & Devour lifting a table “without hands” when they are shown a picture of Vilma Kaplan (Bernadette Peters). Despite his appreciation for the great silents, Brooks still leaves breathing room for his own brand of laughs. It gives Silent Movie a wonderfully irreverent style, but unfortunately, a tone few will appreciate. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Movie]
Silent Movie comes to Blu-ray in a pleasing if unsubstantial AVC encode. The film’s general grain structure is preserved well, enough to give the movie a clean look. This one carries a sharp look, but one that comes at the price of glaring edge enhancement, first noticed around the guard’s hat at 6:33. Nearly every high contrast edge that follows suffers the same fate.
Colors are typically bland, with the exception of some primaries (reds can be especially vibrant). Flesh tones are accurate. Details are generally not well defined, but can be found. DeLuise wears a thick light brown coat that shows clear texture, as do the seats in the small theater when the crew preview a new movie by their studio. The knight suits when inside the commissary include some fine chain mail and stains on the metal. High fidelity textures, including facial details, are non-existent.
Contrast is bright, to the point where true black is rarely seen. This is not a flaw, just the nature of this brightly lit film. A nighttime shoot-out involving Coke cans is their true time to shine, and they perform admirably. Print damage is miniscule, enough that most will miss it. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Video]
Silent Movie is offered in an English DTS-HD mix… and two other languages. Really. While a small gag, the uncompressed effort presents the lively, upbeat John Morris score beautifully. Every note carries a wonderful level of fidelity, and the mild bleed into the surrounds is satisfactory. Highs are crisp, and while no low-end is evident, the effect is still powerful.
Sound effects, almost all of which are generated by the orchestra, are wonderfully clear. The one word spoken in the entire movie comes off as strained and flat, not that it matters that much. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
Extras include a fine making-of titled Silent Laughter, which falls just short of 25-minutes. A trivia track can also run along with the film. Trailers mark the end of this short selection of bonuses. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]
3 thoughts on "Silent Movie Review"
A Blu-Ray listing I found for this film has it at a running time of 87 minutes. Other than the extras, I must assume that there is no additional footage compared to the VHS/DVD versions. Am I the only one who remembers/cares more about the original theatrical footage missing from the “standard” cut of this film??
Do you have anything on the extra footage? I had never heard of anything in all honesty. Is it anything significant?
From my review on amazon.com—
Am I just imagining that there are scenes from this movie
that have been arbitrarily cut out or altered since its original theatrical release????
A Dean Martin cameo??
A scene where Mel & Marty get the wrong idea when they see Dom from the back
in front of a sprinkler while on the way to a public restroom??
The ad card for Bernadette Peters’ Vilma Kaplan at the Rio Bomba
reading “Without The Aid Of Silicone” instead of “A Bundle Of Lust”??
Wasn’t this movie originally longer??
it’s a terrific film &, as another reviewer pointed out, making it in Black & White
would’ve been a great idea.
Great performances & lots of fun, but, seriously, wasn’t there originally more to it??
Weren’t there also silent movie era-type scene transitions–
more irises in &/or out & fewer straight fades??
Am I the only one who remembers this or am I just NUTS????!!!!!
I’ve subsequently also recalled Mel, Marty & Dom
having lunch with James Caan in Caan’s trailer,
which is very unstable & keeps tilting to one side or the other
(especially in Dom’s direction when he takes extra big portions of food).